Friday, October 13, 2006



As some of you may have already heard, longtime Downtown Eastside Advocate, John Turvey, passed away from a longstanding medical condition. He leaves behind his wife, Deb Mearns Turvey and a son, Chad. No doubt, John leaves behind many other cherished friends who adored him. They believed him to be a savior of my neighborhood, which as we know has become the ghetto of Canada.

No doubt, Mr Turvey who was a trained social worker, attempted to make life a little easier, less harsher and better for those he came into contact with. He saw a need to create a new organization for youth in the DTES. He started up the Downtown Eastside Youth Activities Society (DEYAS), which brought awareness and support for the troubled youth of Vancouver's troubled Downtown Eastside. From this simple but very rewarding and honorable place, DEYAS metamorphed into something different along the way.

The metamorphosis of DEYAS may have had something to do with Mr. Turvey's own struggle with heroin addiction. The original vision of DEYAS altered its course, to embrace the new concept of Harm Reduction. John Turvey and his followers believed the way to reduce drug disease and save lives was by implementing the needle exchange program. DEYAS added to this program with outreach vans, to sex workers, by offerring condoms and the bad date sheets.

Often, Mr Turvey is credited with being the original advocate of sex workers but that place in history belongs to others, including but not limited to Ms Sally DeQuadros and Marie Arrington who started the Alliance for Safety of Prostitutes (ASP). Sally was the partner of John Turvey in those days.

Reviewing the impacts that Mr Turvey had in Vancouver would take a whole other story and ideally should be written by those young people whom he assisted. Unfortunately and quite tragically, many of those youth are not alive today and this is most unfortunate consequence as it would offer insight into their personal and tragic life stories.

Instead, Mr. Turvey's place in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has been written by others who he worked with, his loving partner and former colleagues. In fact, political support for Mr Turvey's accomplishments were enshrined by the BC Government and Government of Canada who bestowed on this man, the titles, Order of BC and Order of Canada.

While, I believe John deserves the accolades he received and will also receive in death, I am troubled by the state of the Downtown Eastside.

The Harm Reduction philosophy Mr. Turvey championed needs to be examined. The endless programming dollars going into the DTES needs to be reviewed by independent financial auditors of government. Are there any tangible outcomes which sustain the citizenry of Canada's poorest postal code?

Moreover, many questions need posing and answering. How has the Needle Exchange worked? Has it saved lives? Has it reduced disease among the disenfranchised, disempowered and marginalized? Is offerring condoms to marginalized and troubled women of the DTES, the best method to address their survivalist needs? Plus, have bad date sheets had any impacts in decreasing violence to these vulnerable women on the sex strolls of Vancouver? Has the proliferation of women's marginalized groups since the missing now murdered women's cases, reduced or stopped serial predators from embarking on what amounts to be extermination of the most vulnerable and marginalized women in society?

While John Turvey had influence with policy makers and no doubt was highly regarded, even by me, the bold ways that Mr Turvey subscribed to hasn't had the necessary outcomes for a sustainable, healthy and safe neighborhood. Reducing and stopping the carnage, rape, torture, bleeding, victimization and violence occurring in Canada's poorest neighborhood, continues on, unabated. Isn't it time that policy makers realize that we cannot continue along this path of destruction? Creating unsustainable infrastructures for an underclass in society is not acceptable or humane.

Mr. Turvey left the DTES after he became ill. He obviously needed to find peace, tranquility and sense of functional family. He had to leave the DTES to do so and in his own words found it.

Shouldn't this tell us something folks?

John Turvey may he rest in peace in his golden casket in the sky and may the angels hover around him and protect him forever more.

Jamie Lee Hamilton